Travels on Highway 101 Part II By Rick Schoellhorn, University of Florida

In this second article on new crops displayed at Pack Trials2003, I wanted to hit a few seed crops and a few oddball crops, as well as focuson two new groups of plants that have recently emerged and deserve someattention. So this article will contain a bit less on production informationand more on crops that struck me as interesting and worthy to note, especiallyfor growers looking to develop a niche for the unusual.

So, moving north in California, traveling with the GPNeditorial group and listening to vocal stylings of GPN’s Editorial DirectorBridget White, in between discussions of crops, marketing and productionissues, we came to Lompoc to visit Bodger Seed and Bodger Botanicals. I reallyenjoy this stop, as the folks at Bodger have a great sense of color and mixes,as well as something unusual to keep jaded academics from going narcoleptic inthe middle of their tour. Besides, Lompoc is also a great town with a lot ofinteresting plantings throughout the city.

Agastache

On this trip, I was struck with the emergence of agastachehybrids into our market over the past couple of years. For those of you who havenever heard of agastache, it is a mint relative (like salvia) that likes brightlight and has dusky gray-green foliage. The flowers are usually high in oilsand make great insect attractors in the garden. Agastache was originally a seedproduced plant, but newer genetics are moving it into the quasi-perennialmarket as well.

First there was the annual Honeybee series from PanAmericanSeed, and now the emergence of agastache hybrids with a more salvia-like lookfrom Bodger Botanicals. This new series, bred by Kieft, is called Acapulco, andit is a really nice step forward in genetics. The plants have a more compactgrowth habit than some older hybrids and some really nice colors as well. I wasmost impressed with ‘Acapulco Salmon & Pink’ for a strong bicolor effectand a good pot habit. The Acapulco Series currently includes ‘Acapulco Rose’,Acapulco Salmon & Pink and ‘Acapulco Orange’. So if you are looking forsomething new to introduce that can be grown in the same way you would growbedding salvia, give these new agastache a try.

Stachys

Kieft had a plant on display that is an old favorite ofmine: stachys. ‘Chinook’ is a coral/red flowering stachys that looks a bit likelamium or salvia. Chinook has a sprawling growth habit to 18 inches in heightand great flowers. This one is a bit of a rarity, but a great addition to mintfamily offerings and pretty much trouble free. Grow it cool for best resultsand use minimal PGRs.

Nicotiana

Floranova, another Lompoc company, had a great seed releasethat I couldn’t help but marvel at. It was nicotiana ‘Tinkerbell’, and it is alarge hybrid. Yes, you could produce it in a 4-inch pot and growth regulate itinto submission, but it would ruin the plant’s natural qualities. Tinkerbell iscovered with rose tinted petals with a green outer covering on 3-4 foot plantswith a widely branched flower habit. This is one for the back of the perennialbed, but it is really striking. In order to get both size and shape at theretail level, I’m guessing this is a plant for the 1-gal. to 10-inch specialtycrop market. With good dark green foliage and a strong self-supporting habit,it ain’t your mama’s nicotiana, but it is a great unusual form for the beddingmarket.

Diascia

At Ball Floraplant, I was glad to see the introduction of’Whisper White’ to their Whisper diascia series. We just finished our wintertrials of diascia (see article page 94 for complete diascia and nemesia trialresults) and some of the Whisper series were among our top selections. WhisperDiascia are some of the most vigorous selections on the market and have a bigblowsy habit that makes them perfect for hanging basket production, as well aslandscape use. There haven’t been many whites on the market in the past, and Iam really looking forward to seeing how this latest introduction measures up tothe rest of the series.

Angelonia/Primula

The Flower Fields put on a tremendous display this year,both inside the greenhouse and out. There was a phenomenal array of newmaterial on hand in all areas of perennial and annual color. I wanted to hit ona couple of high points. First off, as far as I can tell, Flower Fields is theonly producer still supplying pink angelonia (part of their Caritas series).Pink angelonia has apparently been very difficult to keep good stock for, so Iwas glad to see that it hadn’t totally disappeared from the market. ‘CaritasPink’ is a bit smaller in stature than some of the other series on the market,but if you are looking for pink, it may be the only game in town anymore.

The Flower Fields also had their line of Primula obconica(The Libre Series) out and I think this type of primula is really making acomeback. A lot of smaller growers have taken it up as a winter crop and aremarketing the large flowered hybrids as premium flowering potted plants.Primula obconica, and especially the Libre series, has a higher heat tolerancethan many other forms of primula and good cold tolerance for winter plantingsin the Sunbelt. ‘Libre Fuchsia’ and ‘Libre Deep Blue’ were both striking. This isa crop that needs more attention, especially for growers looking into the earlyspring and fall extension markets.

Phygelius

One of the best stops this year was at Pacific Plug andLiner. Pacific Plug and Liner had great displays, some good production trialsand a lot of weird plants to make it more interesting. The crop that I wasreally glad to see in their lineup was phygelius. Phygelius hybrids have beenpopular in England for a long time but are beginning to leak out into theAmerican market, and they have tons of potential.

Think of phygelius as a combination between a foxglove and afuchsia. They are somewhat rangy (but respond well to PGRs), with deep greenÁ foliage and terminal spikes of trumpet shaped flowers with yellowthroats and a variety of colors. These plants are strong perennial performersin the northwest and southern United States; they also have a good specialtyannual market in the central and northern United States. We are looking intothis crop at the University of Florida as a potential fuchsia replacement forthose of us unlucky enough to live in locations where fuchsia does not thrive.

Pacific Plug and Liner had two cultivars from Carmel ondisplay ‘Yellow Trumpet’ and ‘Devil’s Tears’, a deep red hybrid with a moreopen flower form. But be on the lookout for other strong phygelius as well.’Sensation’ and ‘New Sensation’ are both deep rich purple violet tones,’Trewidden Pink’ is a rich pink with yellow throat, and there are numerousothers scattered through the fringe market as well.

Verbena

Among the other cool plants at Pacific Plug and Liner wasthe Corsage series of double verbena. Yeah…double verbena, pretty neat! FromCohen Propagation Nurseries, the available colors — Peach, Red and Patio DarkRed — were really a great change in verbena. Each flower head had fromsemi-double to fully-double florets, and while the double flowers were notapparent from a distance, they made for a great novelty once you were closeenough. Production requirements are the same as for any verbena, and this wouldmake a great addition to a novelty line for any retailer.

Nemesia

Pacific Plug and Liner also had a variegated nemesia, alsofrom Cohen Propagatin Nurseries, with broad bands of cream throughout thefoliage and white to pale pink flowers. I have seen a couple of new releases ofvariegated nemesia on the market, and so far, only pale colored flowers areavailable. But should these forms prove to hold up, we should see new colors inthe next few years. Lastly, there were some phenomenal herbs on display atPacific Plug and Liner as well, but more on those later.

Many thanks to all the great companies who hosted visitorsthis year at Pack Trials.

Rick Schoellhorn, University of Florida

Rick Schoellhorn is extension specialist at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla. He can be reached by phone at (352) 392-1831 X364 or E-mail at rfsch@ifas.ufl.edu.



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